Capital Bikeshare will expand into Montgomery County next year, but bicycling advocates say the infrastructure isn’t ready for it. If the county’s serious about making bikeshare work, they need to make bicycling safe and comfortable as soon as the first bikes are out.
Bicycling has become more popular as a form of transportation in Montgomery County in recent years, but there are very few bike lanes, and the county’s wide, busy roads deter all except the most fearless cyclists. As a result, bikeshare users might be tempted to ride on the sidewalk, which could be dangerous for pedestrians.
Proposed Montgomery County bike lanes. Blue represents bike lanes and separated paths, while orange represents sharrows. Click for interactive version.
In this report, the two groups suggest a network of bike lanes in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Bethesda and Friendship Heights. They proposed having dedicated bike lanes on major roads like Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring and business district streets like Arlington Road in Bethesda.
Streets that were too narrow or too congested for bike lanes, like Elm Street in Bethesda, would get sharrows, which help drivers and cyclists share the road.
They also asked the county to complete major regional trails, like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which currently stops half a mile short of its proposed terminus at the Silver Spring Metro station.
The proposed lanes make a lot of sense, focusing on compact downcounty neighborhoods where everything’s already within biking distance. I’ve written before that more on-street bike routes can make bicycling more practical as a form of transportation by bringing riders to shops, jobs and other activities. And bikes take up a lot less space than cars, meaning we can fit more bicyclists on a congested street than we can drivers.
Some of the proposed routes, like Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, may face resistance from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the State Highway Administration, which have been reluctant to take away space from cars. But WABA and MoBike weren’t the first to propose bike lanes for them: earlier this year, County Councilmember Nancy Floreen asked that the state paint lanes on several major roads that they’re scheduled to repave anyway next year.
Creating a countywide bicycling network will take a lot of time and planning, but there are things we can do to improve the biking experience sooner rather than later. As more people take up bicycling, they may find that they don’t have safe places to ride. As a result, Capital Bikeshare could help build a constituency for bike lanes that doesn’t exist now.
Capital Bikeshare is ready to expand into Montgomery County. The question is whether our streets will be ready for Capital Bikeshare.